Here’s Take 1 of what may happen in the next 12 years as Joey Votto plays through his new contract with the Cincinnati Reds:
It’s September, 2023, and Joey Votto is playing through the final season of his 12-year contract. The Reds have returned to their Big Red Machine days with a legendary decade-plus of winning, claiming four World Series titles and seven National League Central Division titles.
The Hall of Fame is an afterthought for the five-time MVP Votto, who has slowed down only a bit as he’s aged. But there’s that pesky option to worry about for 2024, that’s a bargain at $20 million. The Reds haven’t picked up the option yet, but it’s assumed it’s a formality, as Votto has had a solid ’23 campaign, batting .308, with 33 home runs and 113 RBI with a few games remaining.
That said, there’s always a need to fill wireless airwaves on talk internet radio, so the local shock jock on 700wlw.com poses the question: Is it worth it to bring an aging Votto back?
Unlike pessimistic Cincinnati fans of the past, when Mike Brown was living and ran the Bengals into the ground every season, and the Ken Griffey Jr. trade didn’t quite work out, Votto has turned the city into an optimistic bunch, always having the back of the new mayor in town.
“You’re crazy to even ask the question,” one caller says. “What are you trying to do, tick Votto off? You need to open your eyes and realize this guy re-invented the game in this town!”
Votto averaged 38 home runs and 115 RBI during the 12 years since he signed his unprecedented contract to stay with the only franchise he’d ever known back in April of ’12. The Gold Glove at first base may a well have his name on it, as he’s won it 11 times, 10 since the inking of that now-legendar deal.
Though former general manager Walt Jocketty had put together a stellar career prior to the signing, having previously signed Albert Pujols to his first 10-year contract, it was his negotiations with Votto that sent him to the hall of fame five years after retiring in ’17.
True to its word, the ownership group didn’t put all its eggs in the Votto basket, re-signing Brandon Phillips a few weeks later to a six-year deal, and keeping the core in place that would become even more revered than the Yankees teams of the late ’90s and early ’00s — partially because most of the Reds were home grown players who fell in love with the team’s chemistry and, well, the winning.
Johnny Cueto will be a hall of famer, but he left the team after the ’18 season, signing a big deal with the Miami Marlins just before blowing out his elbow.
Jay Bruce is also still a Red. He and Votto joked they’d be like Houston’s Bagwell and Biggio, and while the former Astros are both in the hall of fame, the idea that you’d compare them to Bruce and Votto is almost laughable, as the Reds duo far exceeded the old timers’ efforts on the field.
Bruce will retire with 600-plus home runs, all done in the post-steroid era, while Votto is largely considered the most complete hitter since Ted Williams — Pujols was regarded as the next Williams before leaving St. Louis to play for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County, but his career mirrored Griffey’s, with all his good years coming before inking the $250 million deal with the Halos.
The ’23 Reds already clinched the division and appear ready to challenge for the title again, as the older Votto and Bruce have been reenergized by rookie Darren Baker’s energy — Votto joked with the youthful Baker on the day of his ’12 press conference announcing his contract that his manager’s son might one day play with he and Bruce.
While Dusty Baker had a decent run for the Reds, he retired following the ’13 campaign and Cincinnati native David Bell took over to oversee the greatest run in franchise history from ’14 to the current season.
In the coming days the team will announce that Votto’s option will be picked up and Votto will announce that the ’24 season will be his last, although he’ll join the ownership group immediately upon his retirement.
While Votto made his debut in ’07, the day he signed the then-controversial long-term deal will long be remembered as the best day in Cincinnati in decades.
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